Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Chickens Have ... Hatched?

All four parts of 'Peryton' - the saga of Bronze Age Greece as it teetered on the edge of collapse - are safely in that massive electron universe we call Amazon. Both paperbacks and ebooks are either available now or will be within 24 hours, and I was able to keep the pricing even, even though the books are of different lengths. Ta da! Now the rain is gone, the sun is shining on Panonas, and I'm going out to breathe some lovely Greek air!


Monday, November 27, 2017

On-The-Ground Research

Spent a couple of hours Saturday and all the gorgeous Sunday driving around Lakonia, deciding where and how Paris would have come ashore to perform his fateful wife-napping of Helen, how he would have found her, how long all that would have taken, etc.

And then there are the more important issues that are still rumbling around in my head:

Have already dismissed with the scorn it deserves the idea that they 'fell in love with each other' but the essential "WHY?" still looms large. Did he know about the Tyndareos Oath? If so, what did he mean to start by provoking it? If he didn't know about it, why bother to cross the Aegean and walk for a couple of days to snatch/lure/seduce/whatever a foreign woman who already belonged to somebody else? Why he would have wanted to do that? I've worked through all the complicated reasoning, so today will think about more straightforward reasons - if I can think of any.

And all of this work for a book that's supposed to be about someone else!!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Role for a Mountain Range?

I am staying in my apartment in Mystras, making casual day trips to visit old friends, new excavations,and generally renewing knowledge of the area's geography and overall feeling for the section of the new book that is told from Helen's point of view. Don't know now how these two disparate sections will fit together, especially since Aias and Helen had nothing to do with each other. beyond him being one of the crowd of suitors for her hand and property years before. But they seem to want to and, as long as we are all still moving toward the same ending (a rule: always write a book's ending first!), I'll let them for now. It might end up being two separate books, although so much has been written about Helen that yet another book about her would have to be extremely different from the general run... This day's travel in the Taygetos gave me some ideas, only half-formed or less for now.

One thing I know for sure: my love for the Taygetos has not diminished. That first sight of them as I drove over the last ridge and there they stood, immovable, implacable as always, asking nothing, offering nothing but simply themselves, was, as always, incredibly moving.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

But Why, You Might Ask...

... did the Trojans build their city wall to slant inward?  Any enemy could easily climb it.

But when you stand beside it, you understand. This, like Greece, is a land of earthquakes. A purely vertical wall can easily be shaken askew and broken under the force of those tremors, while a wall that leans against the earth will only settle and become stronger. The outer walls of Mycenae show multiple repairs, while this wall still stands solid.

And besides, you can't easily climb it. not only is it quite steep, but it was topped with a vertical addition several meters tall, at least.

In my book "Warrior" which is currently in process, Ajax encourages the damos - senior village heads - of Salamina to send a force with him to Troy, arguing that the Trojans are so foolish and lazy that they build their walls to lean inward, as if they are already surrendering. So how hard will it be to overrun the place?

Then he sees the wall himself, and understands.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Pulling a trigger, loosing an arrow, flattening a gas pedal --- they are equally scary and exciting. Joining those moments is the mouse click that posts a book for sale on Amazon.


(And no, dear Amazon, the clicker did NOT mean to find Kathryn Back!)

Then there is what follows, which includes postings to reader-specific sites such as Goodreads. And on Goodreads, a sort of lottery: offering five books as prizes in a random drawing that already, only ten hours later, already has fourteen people hoping for a copy of a totally unknown writer's first volume:


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Confusion Wins - For a While

Mine, of course. Encouraged by Eva Pohler, I took the plunge and ended up in shallow water. But it was my own fault, nothing to do with her. Call it over-eagerness, or whatever you like, but it is slowly sorting itself out.

On her excellent advice, I finally pulled the trigger - although didn't hit a perfect home run.
Yeah, I know. But it's finally kinda sorted out.

My Amazon author page is up, the paperback and ebook versions of "The Hostage" - which is part one of the four-part "Peryton" - are up, although I've had to scramble to sort them out. There was even cover trouble, as you might notice if you look at them in the next couple of days. Don't order them until they settle down, but don't forget to order them then.

The paperback should be $11.97 until the release of the ebook in January. Then the paperback will go up to $13.97, while the ebook will be notably less expensive but with an even cooler cover. In any event, it's still a pretty cheap cheap thrill!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bad Dogs

Sent Warrior's first hundred-page section - Part One, Salamina - to my esteemed editor just for his overall impression and commentary. Conclusion: he hates the opening: "Way too dark. ... vignette is too horrific and also too revolting to use—ever, probably—regardless of how accurate it is. But it can be toned down, made less graphic, and could then work."

 He hasn't blinked before when characters did their worst: barely turned a hair for the no-blinking-allowed scene of Akha├»des and Philaios alone. But dogs doing what dogs do made him wince. This process is going to be even more interesting than I thought it might. 

Picture by McKinley Massacre

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Joining the Big Leagues

After checking pricing with several developers whose fees were much farther into four figures than I care to travel with my modest needs, I tried my hand at making my own and am pleased by the result.

Total cost: domain name $30.34 for two years, site itself $194 per year but can be free if the user doesn't mind ads. It took me about three hours to set it up, learning on the way, then spent the afternoon fiddling with about a hundred thousand tweaks and rechecks. Edits are both unlimited and almost immediate. Very gratifying.

No, you don't need to know WordPress, which some inexplicable people inexplicably love, but to me is as opaque and user-hostile as iTunes. And there are bajillions of all kinds of options to use; you can do pretty much as you please.

A note: I have learned that it's important to know that your page will be useable and intelligible on a handheld device as well as a normal big screen, so whatever process you choose to use, make sure to crosscheck that before pushing the buy-it button. Learned that here: http://www.novelmarketing.com/103/

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Chop to Pieces, Rinse, Repeat

As is usual these days, woke very early with "Shit, no!" on my mind. Immediately understood the source of this particular unrest: Telamon's order to Ajax comes way too early. T orders A to do a kind-of-terrible thing, then life goes on as normal for a while? I don't think so. That order must come as part of the avalanche (that word is an exaggeration, but not by much) of thwarts and insults meant to trim A's sails; deflate his confidence and rising power.

Sigh. Okay then. Start coffee, check if the mouse has given up and gone away, then sharpen the hatchet yet again. Take a break to feed horses and check on things outside. Rinse and repeat.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Which is Greek For ....

Two 'characters' - one animate, one perhaps not - have been hanging around bothering me, but I don't know who or what they 'really' are, why they're there at all, and what I'm supposed to do with them.

Hah! Now I know. And one of them explains the other.

Which is Mycenaean Greek for, "It's about fucking damned time, thank you very much!"

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chop, Glue, Repeat

Ajax and I have been stuck for what feels like eons, because of our shared discontent at ordinariness. But now that The Good Kinsman is in my editor's hands and I can't do much until he gets the entire thing back to me, it's time.

Spent many happy hours with the first 100+ pages, cutting and pasting and shifting and 'why?'ing, finally have a rough - don't know what to call it, not an outline, those are all tidy, with numbers and stuff - order in which all those things have to happen - a separate doc that would be totally inexplicable and annoying to anyone else. Kind of like...

...but with a lot more fingerprints, coffee stains, and dog hair. Not to mention a haunted sword (no, please, not the YA way you're thinking of), an unexplained rune painted on his forehead, and a wretched old man he keeps thinking he should remember, but nothing comes. Plus ship borrowing, sword casting, spear training, getting married, bringing the island council to heel, and defying his mother.

That diagram might need a second page taped sloppily at the bottom.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Every time I review the section in which Akhaides seduces Philaios, I find my jaw tightening and then find myself - yet again - saying aloud, "Don't! No you dumbass, don't fall for it! I can't believe you ... Oh, you're gonna be SO sorry!"

I'm never uncritically infatuated by my own work, so I take this as a good sign.
Well, maybe not for Philaios...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Nearing the Finish Line, Pitchfork in Hand

Spent about 30 solid hours re-editing 134,109 words of #4, "Kinsman." And on returning it to my redoubtable editor, Michael, I commented, "Unlike, I believe, many people, I am nearly always delighted to find myself wrong about something, the more thoroughly wrong, the better and more amusing.

"That admitted, I must have all the more reason to be happy today. I truly, deeply, and sulkily thought that this was finished, there was nothing important to look at again, what a waste of time and blah, blah blah.

"Well. Wrong again; gilded, bejeweled, and stunned-almost-silent wrong.

"All best from the nosebleed seats and no kidding 30-hours-in-2.5-days later,
There! All better!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Writing Fighting (Which of You Guys Isn't Busy Right Now?)

At the battle on Telegraph Hill, Robert E. Lee supposedly commented to James Longstreet, "It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it."

I  have not a single moment's experience of any kind of physical fighting, I can use a gun but never shot anybody. Never hit anyone very hard.

Even so, I find writing individual fights and larger group battles exhilarating.

It's all in the choreography. Monique taught me that, when writing any kind of physical interaction between characters, is is essential to get up and perform it - away from the keyboard, in the round even though only in my study or living room. One can't do that with an actual multi-party battle, but even so it is SO much fun to lay it out step by step, keeping track of every person or group, keeping them all busy at once, making them work in a kind of harmony.

I have rarely had as much fun as I did in writing the battle at Rhion. There were moments when I realized that somebody had to do a particular thing. Okay then, I cast back: who is still alive and nearby? What did he just do? Is he available to do this now? Would he do this? And then, how does he do it?

 Sad to say, most writers (especially HF for some reason) purposely claim on behalf of their characters that a battle goes by in a blur. Sorry, but if an armed and armored warrior can't see very clearly what's going on around him, he will not survive that chapter, let alone the rest of the book. And if a writer is THAT lazy, I don't want to encourage his half-assed-ness by paying for his book.

There is just about no excuse for a writer not to know (meaning not to bother to learn) how weapons are handled and how they work...Not just in art, like the pot above, either; many of those were drawn for drama rather than accuracy.

Learning about this used to be difficult, but so what? There is no excuse. It's the writer's job to know what s/he is writing about. And these days it's dead easy to learn. That's why God gave us blogs and YouTube!
Here is just one link.
And here is one of my favorites

Beware, as always, of videos that show all the same trite errors as bad HF writers, TV and movies, and re-enacters make.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Drinking With Chiron

The old man says, “Drink this.”
I never questioned him before, when both of us were younger; me in my final sprout of youth and first bud of manhood, he in his pride and his prime. I don’t question him now, but see nothing here to drink, just bare uneven shelves chopped into a wall of unworked stone, even those hardly visible in this dim sourceless light.
His front hoof – he always used the left one first – raps and slides on the rough rock floor.
I curve my hands and fit them together. There is nothing in them, and then they are full. The drink feels neither cool nor warm. I see nothing, just bear its weight. I smell nothing, not water, not tea, not mead, not wine.
He doesn’t have to repeat the order. I raise my hands, fit my lower lip and the tip of my tongue into the vee of the joined heels, and tilt it up. A shallow eddy flows in. I tip my hands away, close my lips and swallow. It tingles like vinegar would, all the way down.
I am not breathing, so taste nothing. Lift the hands again, admit a trickle, swallow. Swallow. Swallow again. Swallow again.
I hold a final trickle in the cup of my tongue until enough collects that it can be swallowed. Licking the creases of your palms for the last of a drink is vulgar. I just lower my hands and open them. Don’t even shake them clean, as one would with any other drink. Run my tongue around the inside of my lips, top and bottom. Swallow.
He says, “Good.” The strongest praise he ever gave.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Truly, I could continue to dither and fiddle for months, but what's the point? The only one who would notice any of the miniscule adjustments I still feel compelled to make is me. My editor, Michael, has heartily approved #1, and I sent proof copies of 2 and 3 to him on Friday. With his okay, and with any final-final adjustments he might suggest, I will kick the baby birds out of the nest at last.

Yes, yes, yes, I really will. Yes, really.

Michael has #4 to edit, so it will be a couple of months before it is ready for the wide world. But in the meantime, there will be .....

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Junger On Soldiers and 'Success'

In the wonderful book "War," Sebastian Junger vividly explicates the differences between soldiers who succeed on base and in the Pentagon, and those that succeed in the field. At the most basic, those who fight well and stay alive tend to not give a crap about tidy bootlaces and tucked-in shirttails.

Understand, these soldiers don't succeed because they are untidy, annoying, and contemptuous of authority. They succeed because they are untidy, annoying, contemptuous of authority, ferocious, sarcastic, clear-eyed, fiercely loyal to one another, and totally willing to shoot other people if and when necessary. It's a package thing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

We Are Rolling?

There have been other times recently when I felt like, yes, things were in motion. The story was being told. Pages were adding up. Stuff was happening.

Each time, the energy sooner or later wandered off, twiddling its thumbs with boredom.

One of the last things that Monique said to me was, "You have to let it do what it wants to do. That's the only way it can come to life."

This has always meant that, whatever I thought the plan was, I'm going to have to let it slip its leash and then just trundle along after it, cleaning up as I go. This means, for a writer, that every time any  character does something that wasn't in the script, the entire script that came before needs to be tweaked to make it fit.Foreshadowing as afterthought. Buildup as cleanup.

The reward, however, is a story that's actually alive. And in the last few days, Aias has continually done things that I absolutely did not expect. So the cleaning up has been extensive, but totally worth it.

Monday, June 5, 2017

I Am Not a Lawyer And...

...  I don't even play one on TV.

Nevertheless, I have long, long been aware that if I am going to include brief quotations from various people at the heads of chapters, I should gracefully and officially note those quotes, lest someone object and sue me.

Lucky for me, Word includes a reference tab. I fiddled with references and footnotes, and finally settled on using endnotes, which would be the least obtrusive, and let me assemble all the notes on a single page following the entire text. See?

You will learn; you will all learn. But not from me.[i]
— John Gardner

This is the opening quote for volume one, The Hostage. It sits all alone on its very own page, after the dedications page and before page one of the actual story. And on the final page of the entire book, is:

[1] Gardner, John. Grendel. Alfred A Knopf, 1971.

Simple, unobtrusive, and I dare say, elegant.

 Then, after more than a few clumsy experiments and with thanks to the internet for hunting the quotes down (especially Goodreads, which often includes the sources of quotes, which most quotation sites don't), I was able to relocate and cite the immediate sources of all 15 quotes except two. For those, I cheated by citing one of the authors' books that the title implied MIGHT be where the quote could be found.

And this whole process, from learning to formatting to fiddling to completion, took only about 3.5 hours including pouring and reheating coffee, and writing this blog entry.

SO glad that I am no longer an academic!